Thursday, November 11, 2010

Pets and Perspective

Sometimes I get completely overwhelmed by all the implications of plastic. I don't want to be that insane doomsdayer who stands on the corner and screams about the end of the world. But sometimes I feel like Armageddon might just manifest as a tidal wave of suffocating plastic.

Boy 2 had a birthday about three weeks ago. The one thing he has been after us to get him since time out of mind is a turtle. I did the research, and it turns out that turtles are pretty low maintenance, and land tortoises even more so. We found a Russian tortoise on craigslist (not supposed to sell pets there, but oh well.). The tortoise and my son are both ten years old. Russian tortoises have a life span of 50 years, so this is no small commitment, even if they are easy to care for.

Birthday Glee!

Knowing full well that if left to his own devices, Boy 2 would name his new pet something creative like "Yertle" or "Shelly", we helped find names that were original. I was hoping for Vlad the Impaler, but I was shot down. Putin was my second choice, but the boys heard "pootin'" and that one quickly left the list. The Russian tortoise's new name is Gorbachev, Gorby for short. I mispronounce it and call him "Gorbachoff Hasselhoff" (see, because he's a slow runner, Baywatch style). I think it's hilarious. The rest of the family thinks I'm annoying. Oh well.

Anyway, I never expected a reptile to be so damn charming. He's a doll. He has this little snuffly noise he makes when you hold him. He gets so excited when I come to the tank, and he stretches his little turtle neck out to me. He snuggles. I kid you not. He's like...the best pet ever. He's so endearing, and smart. He comes to the glass of the tank when we feed him, he knows. He bangs his shell on the cage when he's hungry. He basks under his little heat lamp, he burrows. He yawns and it's like...amazing somehow. I can't convey how utterly sweet he is. I know he's a turtle, but that's the point, I didn't expect him to be so aware and communicative.

Eatin' green.
We know dogs and horses (and grudgingly, I suppose cats too) are smart, social, and interactive. Somehow I placed reptiles, birds, and fish in the same category as earthworms or flowers as far as sentience goes...and maybe even earthworms and flowers deserve more credit.

I read about all the plastic in the oceans. I watch videos of crabs eating little scraps of plastic shopping bags off the shoreline. I see horrifying pictures of birds decomposed into nothing but bones, feathers, and a pile of plastic where their stomachs used to be. I see what may or may not be a real picture of a turtle whose shell is deformed by a plastic ring encircling it since it was a baby. And I won't post any of those things here, because I'm not going to start a shock campaign...not today.

But when I watch Gorby trundling around, snuffling my son and doing The Hoff Baywatch Run over to his water bowl when we fill it up, and I think about all of those animals poisoned from the outside by oil slicks, strangled from the inside by plastic gets personal. Animals know. They are aware. Doesn't your dog get mad at you? Doesn't she feel sadness when she's in trouble? Doesn't your cat feel pain? Seagulls and seahorses and dolphins and whales and turtles... If they were human babies, wouldn't we take more notice? Probably only if it was happening on the sidewalk outside our homes. Because it's easy to dismiss if it isn't personal.

If I dumped my plastic bags, popped balloons, tampon applicators, and cigarette lighters my neighbor's nursery, there would be an uproar. How utterly anthropocentric and crass to do the same outdoors where animals are living and raising their young. It has to stop.

I'm starting the show us your plastic challenge at Fake Plastic Fish tomorrow. I encourage anyone reading this to join me. Awareness is the first step toward action. 

1 comment:

  1. Fish are dumb, but I don't know how you've managed to discredit birds so much. A lot of them are almost MORE communicative than dogs. I once read about a bird that a man had as a pet, and when the man would get angry and throw crazy fits (apparently he was a nutter), the bird would start making noises that calmed him down. The bird KNEW what was going on AND how to stop it. Crows even have dialects. That's enough of my bird love for right now.

    I also hate plastic, and it disgusts me that people think it's ok to drop it wherever they please --or any kind of garbage for that matter. It is awful to see animals affected by OUR stupidity. I'm convinced plastic is the worst thing ever invented, but I know there are worse things.Anywho -- nice post. I love turtles and tortoises!